This past weekend I was invited to preach at the funeral of a woman I knew as a parishioner in a previous parish. She was in her late 80s when she died. She had lived an incredible life, devoting a tremendous amount of time, energy and intelligence to community building and volunteer initiatives. She was awarded on a municipal, provincial and federal level for her work in this way. She even had the opportunity, as a young woman, to meet the future Queen of England while attending an international event for the YWCA.
About a decade ago, this woman suffered physically in a way that changed her physical capacity. She could no longer walk and had to rely on others to manage her day to day life. As I spoke to her daughter, one of her caregivers, in preparing for the funeral, I was told about how her mother had been relegated to the sidelines of her volunteer activity once she could no longer participate physically. How disheartened she had become when her "usefulness" to the community had seemingly come to an end.
This is a far too common experience for many people in our culture, in our community, in our church. And it isn't always just ageing that brings it on. It can be physical illness, mental illness or any variety of life events that suddenly make us "less able" than we once were. "Less able", that is, by some definition of our culture.
In some communities, in some societies, you actually become much more valuable as you age. Your wisdom is sought out. You may not be able to be involved physically in the same ways, but those younger than you will sit with you and listen to what you have to say. May of the indigenous communities around the world teach us this important truth. Few of us, sadly, seem to be listening.
This got me thinking about how we, as the people of Ascension, offer opportunities to people of all ages and abilities to be involved, to give and to engage with the community. We identified last year, through our Revitalization Conversations, the importance of ministry with seniors. I would think that helping people find purpose at all stages of life would be a meaningful part of ministry - of helping people experience the love of God.
I invite you to think with me about what this might look like - both for those who are directly involved with our church and for those we encounter in our community endeavours.
The possibilities are limitless - only limited by our narrow views of ability and what we have to offer to each other. I encourage us as a community to stir up this conversation, come up with some crazy ideas, listen to each other - particularly our elders.
If you would like to share your thoughts, please send an e-mail to Ruthanne - [email protected]